Tokiwaya is Nozawa onsen of great history first opened Kanei Period some 370 years ago.

Tokiwaya has a long history as a hot spring inn and it is said that it was established as far back as the Kan’ei Period (1624 - 1644, Edo Period) . In year 16 of the Kan’ei Period when Tadachika Matsudaira, governor of Totomi Province took control of Iiyama Castle, he put an administrator in Nozawa Onsen and began making improvements to the hotspring area and to the bath houses, after which he and his retainers started to enjoy taking baths. (according to the 10th Tokiwaya owner Makoto Tomii’s publication, “厚生と療養―野沢温泉案内”) Since then, its reputation has grown as a miraculous hot spring. Although it had a period of decline it rebounded as a hot spring town and continued to develop. During the Edo Period, people’s homes were limited to two story dwellings by law but because the Lord of the castle wanted to develop the hot spring town further he permitted three story dwellings and a three-tiered hot spring inn with a straw thatched roof was built. Photographs of the inn from that time can be viewed in the Tokiwaya Inn photo collection. Tokiwaya Inn as a place of long standing has supported the continued development of Nozawa Hot Springs and has helped create the era of Nozawa Hot Springs.。

When did Nozawa onsen come into existence?

According to legend, during the Tenpyo Period under the reign of Emperor Shomu (approximately 1270 years ago), it is said that the distinguished priest Gyoki on a pilgrimmage to Mt. Kosugi learned of a miraculous hot spring there and told a villager of it. In another version, during the Tenryaku Period (approximately 1050 years ago) a Buddhist monk referred to the hot spring and word spread around the world (Nozawa Hot Spring has healing properties, Makoto Tomii) Since then this land has been the territory of Minamoto no Yoritomo, ruled by the Kamakura Shogunate, been controlled by Takauji Ashikaga, ruled by the Muromachi Shogunate, been possessed by Terutora Uesugi, and after a period of possession by the Lord of Matushiro Castle ended up in the hands of the Iiyama clan. In year 16 of the Kan’ei Period (1639), when Tadatomo Matsudaira was Lord of the castle, he dispatched an administrator to and revitalized Nozawa Hot Spring. He put a temporary residence in place and would bathe in the hot springs. After his very positive management many bath houses sprung up and the area entered a period of sustained development. However, after Lord Matsudaira returned to his land of Enshu (present day Shizuoka) the hot springs began a period of decline and after a succession of different rulers in the area the bath houses fell into ruin. The hot springs returned to prosperity in the Meiji Period when they came under the jurisdiction of Nagano Prefecture. In year 13 of the Meiji Period (1880) the roads were improved and the transportation system made more convenient and in year 21 massive reconstruction of the bath houses was undertaken. There is still a record of the governor of Nagano Prefecture attending a bath-opening ceremony at this time. The rebuilding continued with the restoration of inns and baths, the roads were turned into prefectural roads and further improvements were embarked upon. In the ninth year of Taisho Period (1920) the Iiyama train line was opened and by bus Nozawa Onsen became reachable in a mere 12 minutes. In year 15 of the Taisho Period the Nagano Dentetsu extended its railway line to Kijima Station and from here visitors could arrive in Nozawa Onsen within 35 minutes by bus. Due to continued development on the transportation network the inns and their facilities began to thrive. Now, regarding the name of the area known as Nozawa, it is thought to be an abbreviation of “Asa-ba-no no sawa” taking the two characters ‘no’ meaning field and ‘sawa’ meaning marsh. In Manyoshu (Japan's Premier Anthology of Classical Poetry) and other books “Asa-ba-no” is said to represent the whole area around Mt. Kosugi, and Nozawa hot springs were said to be the “Asa-ba-no” marsh. In addition, it seems that this land was also known as Gōdo no Sato and Yuzawa no Sō at different times. (This according to the book, 私本温泉邑の神佛さま by Morio Tomii)

The 1000-person Hot Spring during the Taisho Period (1912-26)

Despite being known as the “1000-person Hot Spring” this does not mean that 1000 people piled into a huge bath at the same time. Empress Komyo, in an act of charity, used the hot springs to help treat a thousand people and therefore the name “1000-person Hot Spring” was born. That said, the truth is that Tokiwaya’s 1000-person Hot Spring is indeed very large. The photo shows the period in which the hot spring was called the biggest in Shinshu (Nagano). For some reason a boat is floating in the bath and apparently it was very popular. According to a book, at the 1000-person Hot Spring a large flower bed was made, circling the outside of the hot spring was a moat with carp and gold fish, and it was written that we could see them doing somersaults (although this is not possible now).

Oh-yu (Large Bath)in the Meiji Period (1868-1912)

Oh-yu (Large Bath) was in the center of Nozawa Hot Springs, a communal bath located next to Tokiwaya. It was called Inukai Springs or sometimes So-yu. This photo was taken in the 21st year of Meiji (1888) after the hotsprings were reconstructed. There was a mountain stream that flowed from Kanisawa past the front of the hot spring which, “ babbled to the extent that a sound reverberated all around creating a most pleasant atmosphere for a mountain spa,” as written in the book “厚生と療養――野沢温泉案内” written by Makoto Tomii. 戦前の麻釜 = Pre-war Okama (Hemp Pot) Hot Spring

Pre-war Ogama (Hemp Pot) Hot Spring

Walking up along the steep path from the communal Oh-yu you will come across the famous Okama Hot Spring. There is a stone-paved road that surrounds hot water pots, at the bottom of these pots the temperature of the hot water is boiling at a temperature of around 100 degrees centigrade. In the old days they used to immerse hemp cloth into this hot water and is therefore appropriately named ‘Hemp pot hot springs’. From film footage at that time we can see the pots were not yet surrounded by a road and there were five pots. According to the books, “厚生と療養―野沢温泉案内” by Makoto Tomii and “土地の人は、麻釜より立ち上る湯気で、天気を占った” local specialties such as Akebi, turnips, bracken, and butterbur were boiled in the hot spring pots and, in addition, eggs were boiled for four or five minutes and Japanese sake was heated up as well by placing the bottles of sake into a pot for two or three minutes.

The origin of Yakushido and Yakushi Sanzon

In the Kan’ei Period (1624~1644), there was a sacred image of Yakushi Nyorai kept in an inn close to the communal bath “Oh-yu” that was secretly worshipped by the village people because it was believed to grant their prayers. When Matsudaira’s retainer Yoshitsugu Oguri heard about this he went to the master of the inn and the village people and persuaded them to open this secret Buddha to the public. They chose a place and then built a small shrine and installed the sacred image there. It’s reputation grew and grew, and Yakushi Nyorai‘s image thought to bring blessings and salvation attracted many visitors. However in Showa 7 (1932) a votive light that had been forgotten to be extinguished caused a fire that completely burned the shrine. There were plans to rebuild it but due to economic depression and the outbreak of war it took until Showa 27 (1952) until the reconstruction got underway. In Showa 29 (1954) the main Buddhist image was once again installed and using the clay from the Yakushiji Temple precinct his twelve divine generals were also installed. Currently Nozawa hot springs has 13 outdoor springs (communal). At Oh-yu Hot springs the sacred Buddhist image of Yakushi Sanzon is enshrined and at each of the other twelve one of the twelve divine generals is enshrined, where the further development and safety of the outdoor hot springs is prayed for.

Doso-zin (Traveler's Guardian Deity) Festival

The Doso-shin festival held at Nozawa hot springs is designated as an important intangible folk-culture asset. The photo shown here is one taken during the early part of the Showa Period (1926-89) where the festival that took place was closer to the original than it is today. A description of the festival at that time is written in the book, “厚生と療養-野沢温泉案内” by Makoto Tomii and outlined below. “The festival is held annually on January 15th and two or three days before that, starting before dawn a conch is blown and the local youth go into the mountain and cut down a large tree. From that wood is made an altar that resembles an ancient Indian altar for the Doso god. After nightfall, the older youth take the stance of having to put out the fire, the younger youth take the stance of setting the fire and by the light of the fire the battle begins. As the ancient Indian altar burns furiously umbrella lanterns are thrown into the fire by families to whom a son was born in the previous year while praying for the growth of their child. After the burning altar collapses the remaining pieces of wood are picked up and burned, and adzuki (red) beans are held over the fire and depending on which direction the beans jump some people do fortune telling.”」